'The West Wing': Five Fun Facts That Only True Fans Know

'The West Wing': Five facts about the show you might not have known yet.
February 3, 2020 - 12:05 / Clemens Fanger

Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing still is one of the most popular TV shows of the early 2000's with an amazing cast. Did you know all of these facts about the iconic TV drama?

We (like so many others) have been fans of The West Wing ever since it premiered in 1999. Here's five facts about the show you might(!) not yet know.

Bradley Whitford almost played "Sam Seaborn"

Naturally, it is hard to imagine anyone else but the actual main cast of The West Wing playing their roles, but the creators had a number of other actors in mind for the characters.

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Although Aaron Sorkin wrote the part of "Joshua Lyman" with Bradley Whitford in mind, the actor was also in consideration to play "Sam Seaborn" at one point. Rob Lowe was offered the role of "Sam", but there was some concern if he would sign on to play the role. 

Bradley Whitford as "Josh Lyman" in The West Wing.

"I got a phone call saying that I was in the show but I was playing Sam," Whitford once told Empire. "I remember I was in a gas station in Santa Monica and I had no right not to be thrilled but I called Aaron and I said, 'I'm not Sam! I'm not the guy with the hooker, I'm the guy bashing the Christian right!'"

Aaron Sorkin had a cameo in the series finale

Although he left the show after the fourth season, Aaron Sorkin could not resist returning to the set of The West Wing during its seventh season. And he actually has a small cameo in the very last episode of the show called "Tomorrow"! Watch below...

Real White House staffers served as consultants for the show

It turns out Aaron Sorkin did not come up with all these plot twists and turns with a "normal" group of writers. Many of the most famous stories told on The West Wing were actually inspired by anecdotes that various consultants for the show, who served in the real West Wing of the White House, provided the writing staff with.

Consultants over the years included people such as H.W. Bush's press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, Bill Clinton's economic adviser Gene Sperling and Ronald Reagan's famous speechwriter Peggy Noonan.

Rob Lowe as "Sam Seaborn" in The West Wing.

The President was only supposed to be a guest star at first

When Martin Sheen signed on as "President Josiah Bartlet", he did so thinking that "Jed" would be a recurring character for a couple of episodes in each season! But Sorkin and his executive producer Thomas Schlamme knew they had to use Sheen more often than that right after his famous scene from the pilot episode.

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"[...] once we cast Martin and we realized Martin's incredible accessibility, nothing felt pompous or aloof. If the show is about all the planets, let's end it with the sun," Schlamme recalled when talking to Empire.

Martin Sheen as "Josiah Bartlet" in The West Wing.

The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal delayed the start of the show

It was 1996, when TV producer John Wells first met with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin to discuss the idea of The West Wing. Wells took the show to NBC, where he'd had great success with ER already.

But the executives were quite reluctant to greenlight a show about politics - and then the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal happened in 1998!

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"The Lewinsky scandal was happening at the very time I was writing the pilot and it was hard, at least for Americans, to look at the White House and think of anything but a punch line," Sorkin recalls. "Plus a show about politics, a show that took place in Washington, had just never worked before in American television. So the show was delayed for a year."